Post-match analysis: A familiar tale for Burnley on their travels

Post-match analysis: A familiar tale for Burnley on their travels

A poor first half set the tone for another away defeat, as the Hammers became the latest team to outplay the travel-sick Clarets.

jordaneyre
Jordan Eyre

Burnley still await a first away win of the season after going down 1-0 to West Ham United at the London Stadium on Wednesday night.

Mark Noble struck on the cusp of half-time to clinch the game for the hosts, tucking home the rebound after seeing his penalty saved by Tom Heaton.

Similarly to their previous away game at Stoke City, the Clarets began slowly but improved in the second half, with Scott Arfield and Sam Vokes going agonisingly close to restoring parity.

But it is now seven away games without an away win for Burnley, who will rue a wasted opportunity of securing that first three-point haul against the struggling Hammers.

Another Jekyll and Hyde performance

At half-time, the statistics made for grim reading for the Clarets. West Ham had more than four times as many shots (14 to Burnley’s three) with more on target (5 to none), while the visitors completed just 68 of their passes in comparison to the Hammers’ 254.

Sean Dyche’s side improved after the break but sadly, defeat always seemed inevitable. Burnley’s approach to away games is completely unsustainable: last time in the Premier League, their three away wins came by a single goal margin, with an average possession rate of 36.3%.

That hat-trick of wins came against an out-of-sorts Stoke, a Hull City on the verge of relegation and Aston Villa, whose focus remained on their impending FA Cup final. The Clarets have faced four of the top 10 sides on the road this season, while the other three – West Ham, Stoke and champions Leicester City – finished seventh, ninth and first respectably.

Yet the Clarets have lost 1-0, 2-0 and 3-0 to those sides, who have all endured – or are enduring – torrid runs of form. Burnley’s lack of opportunism in capitalising on their woes is a symptom of their current plight away from home.

They are hindering themselves with sluggish starts. Dyche’s men have conceded 16 goals across seven away games, and nine of those have come in the first half. Burnley could be better equipped to battening down the hatches in the first half and, as the game progresses, opening up and looking to snatch a goal during the quick transition of play Dyche often champions.

Familiarity breeds contempt

Looking at Wednesday night’s game in particular, Burnley supporters will be frustrated with the recurring shortcomings. Two of the top 12 players to attempt passes were West Ham players, and on a pitch as expansive as the London Stadium’s, the Clarets should have been shrewder with their passing. Stretching the play and tiring the hosts would have paved way for a more open finale.

Unsurprisingly, Burnley were also second best in terms of chances created – Dimitri Payet made double the amount of chances (8) than the visitors – while the Hammers made more crosses, had more corners and enjoyed more take-ons.

While it may seem pernickety to criticise Burnley for such shortcomings having only lost to a penalty decision, but it is the familiarity of these stats that are more damning. A lack of invention and creativity underpins their travel blues, and it is all the more concerning when the Clarets can perform with such verve and explosiveness at Turf Moor.

It must be remembered that the East Lancashire outfit are still relative newcomers to the division, and that the calibre of opposition faced away from home has been high. But if Burnley are going to lose while playing trying to stifle their hosts, then there is not much lost in playing with more craft and expansiveness and still losing.

The curious case of Steven Defour

Football fans know a good player when they see one, and Burnley fans are no different. Statistics are telling, but they do not record the fierce intensity or aura of class that certain players emanate. If they did, Steven Defour would rank quite highly.

Which makes it even more head-scratching as to why he was not involved at all against West Ham. Those underwhelming passing stats and lack of chances created are issues Defour could have contributed towards reversing, yet he was never introduced from the bench.

The Belgian international has completed 692 minutes of action across the 11 games he has been involved in. He has made it beyond the 75 minute mark just twice – both at Turf Moor – and has played just 55 minutes of Burnley’s last three games.

Different players take different lengths of time to acclimatise to new surroundings, but for a player who plays with the tenacity and endeavour of someone like Defour – and must, therefore, have a reasonable level of fitness at least – it is staggering why he can not feature more for the Clarets.

Injuries perhaps limit him to one game a week – many expect him to feature at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday – but someone of his quality should be called upon with more regularity. 

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